A-Trak: On EDM And Ethics
“Button Pushing:” Live show, or monstrosity? Money well-spent to watch an original set? Or money spent to stand next to a stack of really loud boom boxes?
Maybe you knew and maybe you didn’t, but Deadmau5 has slowly been adding tick marks to his tally of burned bridges in the music industry. Now I don’t want to call it an attack, but last month he essentially blew the whistle on the entire EDM community’s laissez-faire approach to “live shows.” He even called himself out, stating on his Tumblr that “We All Hit Play”.
While Deadmau5 surely ruffled some’s feathers with that one, A-Trak wasn’t one of them. Instead, the Mau5’s comments inspired him to write up a well-reasoned piece of literature on how both the artists–AND the fans–could change how they experienced live shows.
The DJ/Producer begins his Huffington Post article by first laying out the “Button Pushers” concept for us, and then rounding it off with probably my favorite advice ever. You’ll see what I mean:
“…and as the lines continue to blur between a DJ who mixes and a producer who presses play, questions of authenticity have been raised. I should mention that I am a DJ myself. I won five world DJ championships (yes, there is such a thing) at a young age, and this has been my career for 15 years, so I feel a certain responsibility to weigh in on the subject.”
“…this DJ-as-Milli-Vanilli debate started simmering last summer with the emergence of a YouTube clip entitled “Steve Angello — How To Fake Your Fans.” It showed the Swedish House Mafia DJ playing 15 minutes of a pre-recorded set from a single CD deck. He later explained that this was the finale of a show where fireworks, pyro and CO2 were timed with certain cues and that it was impossible to perform this segment while mixing live. Having seen Steve mix in front of me many times I can attest to his (actually remarkable) DJ skills. But let’s back up a bit: fireworks, pyro and CO2 with house music? Something new is going on here..”
“Festivals started spending millions equipping their stages with the biggest LED panels and brightest lights, competing with rivals all in the name of this “experience.” Now we are in the middle of an arms race where every DJ tries to out-do the next one with shock and awe. As the performance aspect becomes predominant, a paradigm shift is underway. Crowds used to come see DJs for a musical journey. Now they expect to hear specific songs and furthermore, they want to see a show.”
“Real DJing lives when you witness someone play for hours and take risks, reading the crowd and surprising them at the same time. On festival stages, it makes sense to use fool-proof equipment and put together a spectacular show. In today’s context, wouldn’t it be fair to say that the holy grail is a live performance that has the flexibility to integrate true improvisation? That is the ultimate win-win. To the DJs who choose to bypass the LED screen arms race and stick to their decks, I respect that too. Just make sure you give your audience something new every night.”
“And to all the new fans just discovering this genre, come to the shows with an open mind. Don’t just wait to hear the songs you already know. There’s a reason you’re not watching a band. DJing is still at the cutting edge of new music. Let yourself be surprised.”
I couldn’t agree more